How a Teacher Does Her Job in Quarantine
In our Day in the Quarantine Life series, we’re chatting with Canadians about their new normal, exploring how they organize their days and balance their home lives with work obligations. Here, Meaghan Trudell, a kindergarten teacher in London, Ontario, shares how she prepares for taking her classroom online.
My husband, Will, usually wakes me up. He’s still going to work every day because he’s an essential worker. I grab my phone to check my email, then Twitter and the news to see what’s going on with Covid-19.
I’m a kindergarten teacher. Before the quarantine happened, I was in my classroom every day, teaching my students letters of the week and numbers, and now my days are a lot different.
I was driving home from school on Thursday (March 12) which was right before March break, and I got a call from my friend who teaches in another school board and she said she heard on the news that all schools are closing. At the time, we thought the government was closing the schools for two weeks after March break, as we had heard rumours about that. So, I woke up really early the next day, realizing I need to give my kids work to do because they can’t just be home for two weeks, three weeks with March break, and not do anything. I searched for lessons, and I went to school and made little homework packages to send home with each student.
Now, four weeks later, the schools still aren’t open. They’re planning to open them on May 4, but that’s subject to change. I would love to go back, at least by June, and finish the year off properly.
Normally, I leave for work just before 8 a.m. Now, I have breakfast. On the weekend, Will and I made these Skinny Taste Bagels. Oh my God, they were so good, especially for only requiring a few ingredients. They’re made with Greek yogurt, which makes them so much healthier than the alternative, and they’re made without any sugar. This morning, I just re-toast one, and it’s still so good.
I get ready, but I don’t try as hard as I would if I were going to school! My morning routine has been cut in half, which is nice. But soon, I’ll be filming videos with lessons for my students to watch, so I’ll probably be trying a little harder!
I drive to a local park to get a change of scenery. I walk around just to clear my head. I miss my old schedule. I miss going into the school every day, the kindergarteners, and having contact with people every day.
I come home and go on my computer, and I set up my Google Classroom. I send parents log-in information, hoping they will log in each day and see the virtual lessons and daily challenges I have waiting for them.
On Google Classroom, I’m setting up different links for kids for online learning. I’m including links for reading programs, like Raz-Kids and Storyline Online, math game websites, and mindfulness exercises, like ones on Cosmic Kids Yoga and Mindful Kids and GoNoodle. I’m hoping the kids will try to stay calm while they’re home.
In school, we did a lot of work with mindfulness. We did yoga every day to try to calm our bodies. Students are only ready for learning when they’re self-regulated, so a huge part of kindergarten is teaching them those skills to help them stay calm in different situations.
We loved doing 10-minute belly breathing after lunch, after they had been running around and had a lot of energy. The kids would lie on the floor and close their eyes, and they’d put a little paper fish that we had made on their bellies, and they would take big, deep breaths. They would know when they were doing the exercise correctly because their fish would be moving up and down. Those deep breaths helped them calm their bodies, centre them, and when we’d finish they were usually calmer and ready to learn a new skill or participate in a new task.
I call a few parents to connect with them and make sure they have access to a computer and the internet so they can access the online program—the school board is going to be letting families borrow technology if needed. Parents will need to help their kids log on, and then I’m hoping the kids will be able to press play and watch the videos I create for them, but they’ll need their parents help. So, we will need that partnership—between the parent and child—for online learning to be successful.
I break for lunch and check in on the group chat I have with the teachers at my school. I text with my ECE (early childhood educator) teaching partner about different ideas we have for the work we do each week. A couple of my colleagues are familiar with Google Classroom and online learning, because they use it in the older grades, and I’ve been relying on them for help.
Starting tomorrow, I’ll be filming myself teaching lessons to make three videos per week for my kids. The videos, like the links I’m providing, are meant to keep the kids moving forward, building their literacy, numeracy, and mindfulness skills so they’re better prepared for when we do go back to school, so they don’t fall behind.
To prepare for the videos, I’m turning my spare room into a classroom. I put the alphabet up on the wall and create boards. I play around with the software, trying to figure out the best way to post things. I want to be ready tomorrow to film my first video, edit it, and post for Monday.
These videos, along with the links I supply, will take up at least an hour a day. The government says kids, from kindergarten to grade three, should be doing five hours a week with a focus on literacy and numeracy. But kindergarten is really about learning through play—like playing a board game with their family, using the dice, counting the dots—so we rely on that as well.
I think that I’m cooking more in quarantine. I’ve always cooked, but it would be more fast meals.
I start making this pasta dish—cheese and olive penne. I’m following my mom’s old recipe. There’s something so comforting about reading her handwriting, following her recipe. But it takes me three hours!
Will has been working a lot more just because of his nature of work, so we’re eating dinner later, going to bed later. Our whole schedule has been pushed back, but I still try to have quality time with him at night. It’s just hard to turn the teaching off. Hard to not spend my time getting things ready for this new way of teaching.
We have a late dinner, clean up, and watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix—we’re re-watching it right now.
Before bed, I’m on my phone, on Twitter, on Pinterest, looking for teaching ideas, checking Instagram, doing that stuff, and then I go to sleep.
I can’t wait to go back to school and see all my kindergarten friends. I will never take a little kindergarten hug for granted ever again. I miss them, and I worry about them. In school, we say you need to “Maslow before you Bloom,” so your basic needs have to be met before you’re available for learning. For some of our kids, that means something as simple as providing them with food when they come to school because maybe they hadn’t had breakfast or even dinner the night before. I look forward to being able to take care of those kids on that level again.
Outside of school, I can’t wait to be able to celebrate things again. Like baby showers and wedding showers. Those celebrations we took for granted. And, I look forward to going to Home Sense! It’s not online!